Click for next page ( 37


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 36
Space Studies Board Annual Report-1992 (Congressional Testimony) Space Studies Board Annual Report—1992 5 Congressional Testimony 5.1 Testimony on Priorities in Space Life Sciences Research Space Studies Board member Robert H. Moser delivered the following testimony before the Task Force on Defense, Foreign Policy, and Space of the Committee on the Budget of the U.S. House of Representatives, on April 28, 1992. Mr. Chairman, Ranking Minority Member, and members of the Task Force. Thank you for inviting me to testify at these important hearings on behalf of the Space Studies Board of the National Research Council (NRC). The Research Council is the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences, chartered by Congress in 1863 to advise the federal government on matters of REPORT MENU science and technology. NOTICE FROM THE CHAIR CHAPTER 1 As an M.D., my experience with the NASA spaceflight program goes back CHAPTER 2 to the days of Project Mercury. A biographical sketch of my professional CHAPTER 3 background is attached. Over the years, I have served on a wide variety of CHAPTER 4 panels and committees that advise NASA and the nation about research, health, CHAPTER 5 and safety issues associated with the presence of humans in space. Currently, in addition to serving as a member of the NRC's Space Studies Board and that Board's Committee on Human Exploration, I am a liaison member of NASA's internal advisory Committee on Scientific Utilization of Space Station Freedom. SPACE STUDIES BOARD OF THE NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL Established in 1958, the Space Studies Board is the National Research Council's primary advisory body concerning the U.S. civil space research program. It is the Board's responsibility to provide timely and objective advice both when requested to do so or when, in the view of the Board and the NRC, it file:///C|/SSB_old_web/an92ch5.htm (1 of 17) [6/18/2004 10:31:39 AM]

OCR for page 36
Space Studies Board Annual Report-1992 (Congressional Testimony) is warranted and appropriate to do so. In representing the Space Studies Board, my testimony today will be limited to those issues associated with support of biomedical research in space and its role in the nation's space program. It is these issues that the Board has reviewed and assessed as recorded in its published reports, statements, and previous testimony to Congress.1 BIOLOGICAL AND MEDICAL RESEARCH IN SPACE At the outset, let me emphasize that from my perspective, the conduct of biological and biomedical research in space has one primary purpose—to support the national goal of a long-term human presence in space. In the absence of that goal, the space life sciences program would have an entirely different focus. There is an undeniable fascination in studying the effects of microgravity on plants, animals, and humans in space. Life as we know it has evolved in the presence of gravity. Thus, it comes as no surprise that all of Earth's living organisms show various abnormalities when exposed to the microgravity environment of space. Exploring the effects of microgravity on the development and maintenance of living systems is of considerable scientific interest. It is imperative, however, that national goals guide a research endeavor of this magnitude. Purely academic curiosity is an insufficient rationale for investing tax dollars on this scale. As each of you knows, life sciences research conducted on the ground is expensive. There are a multitude of compelling reasons to make this investment—ranging from improving access to health care for all our citizens and thus improving the quality of life, to supporting the unending search for disease cures. Conducting life sciences research in space adds considerably to the cost and is not likely to help us achieve these notable goals. Thus it cannot be justified on the same grounds as ground-based research, nor should it be. At the risk of becoming repetitious, I would like to emphasize that the primary justification for space life sciences research is a commitment to long-term human exploration. Let me turn to a discussion of those issues on which the Space Studies Board has taken a series of public positions—the relationship to and importance of life sciences research in the U.S. civil space program. NATIONAL GOALS AND THE CIVIL SPACE PROGRAM In 1988, then-President Ronald Reagan put forth a Presidential Directive on National Space Policy. The policy, later reaffirmed by President Bush, states that "a fundamental objective guiding United States space activities has been and continues to be, space leadership." Earlier this year, NASA Administrator Richard Truly issued Vision 21—The NASA Strategic Plan (NASA, January 1992). This multiyear plan is an file:///C|/SSB_old_web/an92ch5.htm (2 of 17) [6/18/2004 10:31:39 AM]

OCR for page 36
Space Studies Board Annual Report-1992 (Congressional Testimony) implementation strategy for the goals contained in the Presidential Directive. Among those goals is an expansion of human activity beyond Earth orbit, including long-duration human exploration. The Board has made a number of statements concerning life sciences research in the context of that goal.2 In 1987, through its standing Committee on Space Biology and Medicine, the Board issued a comprehensive research strategy that focused on the program, experiments, and instruments that would be required to answer the many fundamental scientific questions that have been identified in this still emerging field of space science. The strategy report recognized the distinctiveness of this area of space research. Space medicine is unique in the context of the other space sciences—primarily because, in addition to questions of fundamental scientific interest, there is a need to address those issues that are more of a clinical or human health and safety nature. The authoring committee and the Space Science Board reached an important consensus in approving this report. That is, if this country is committed to a future of humans in space, particularly for long periods of time, it is essential that the vast number of uncertainties about the effects of microgravity on humans and other living organisms be recognized and vigorously addressed. Not to do so would be imprudent at best—quite possibly, irresponsible. The committee advised that while some space life sciences research is clinical in nature, much of it is also of basic interest—for example, dealing with fundamental questions concerning the role of gravity in life processes. It pointed out that "in a properly framed strategy, basic and clinical research can complement one another." An important conclusion reached by the committee is the following: Space biology and medicine is in its infancy. Relatively few biological experiments have been flown, most of them have not been part of a larger research strategy, and few of them have been adequately controlled or replicated. In 1992, even with the noteworthy achievements of successfully flying Spacelab-I and the International Microgravity Laboratory mission last year, the field is still in its infancy. Yes, there has been progress, but much remains to be done. PRIORITIES AND BENEFITS Among other things, you asked me to comment on priorities in health and medical research funding and on the scientific return and cost-effectiveness of file:///C|/SSB_old_web/an92ch5.htm (3 of 17) [6/18/2004 10:31:39 AM]

OCR for page 36
Space Studies Board Annual Report-1992 (Congressional Testimony) space-based life sciences research. The question is asked frequently: What can we learn from exposure to microgravity that will help us in diagnosing and treating disease on Earth? This is not an easy question—nor am I convinced it is appropriate. We know that plants, animals, and human beings are the creatures of gravity. We know that bone, muscle, the heart, lungs, and central nervous system are influenced significantly by gravity. I confess that I do not possess the imagination to envision what can be learned by prolonged exposure to microgravity that will help us solve our earth-bound medical problems. In this context, it would be most difficult for me to justify the enormous expense and risk of space-based life sciences research for that purpose. I am open to being convinced otherwise—but thus far, I have encountered no compelling evidence or arguments. Discussion of priority setting among and between sciences has been enjoying particular prominence of late—deservedly so. In fact I would be remiss if I did not mention that the Board testified on this topic at another hearing to another committee this very morning.3 In representing the Space Studies Board, it would not be appropriate for me to take a position on the priority to be accorded to space biology and medicine relative to the overall U.S. health and medical research enterprise. That is well beyond the purview of the Board and, as I have already stated, the goals are quite different. I can, however, discuss some relative priorities within the context of national goals and space biology and medicine in the context of human space exploration. ASSESSMENT OF PROGRAMS IN SPACE BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE In 1991, the Board issued a series of assessments of NASA's progress in implementing recommendations made concerning the various space research disciplines, including space biology and medicine. In discussing the major imperatives for research in space biology and medicine, the assessment categorized research topics relative to the urgency that would be dictated by proceeding with a space exploration initiative. The Space Exploration Initiative (SEI) envisions a sequential progression of human activities in space of many years duration. This places increased emphasis on implementation of the appropriate research strategies. Ironically, since a small number of Soviet astronauts have survived in low earth orbit for as long as a year, the perception has developed that there are no major physiological or psychological problems likely to preclude longer- term human exploration beyond low earth orbit. The fallacy of that assumption has been documented in previous reports and the current document reaffirms that conclusion. Concerning physiological and psychological problems associated with an extended human presence in space, the committee presented them in a rough order of priority, relative to their importance to extended human space travel: file:///C|/SSB_old_web/an92ch5.htm (4 of 17) [6/18/2004 10:31:39 AM]

OCR for page 36
Space Studies Board Annual Report-1992 (Congressional Testimony) bone, muscle, and mineral metabolism; cardiovascular and homeostatic functions; and sensorimotor integration. Psychosocial perturbations and exposure to radiation rank as equally important. All physiological change in microgravity represents a homeostatic accommodation to this new environment. In reality, such an accommodation represents a maladaptation to Earth's gravity. Thus, although crews may do reasonably well during a long voyage, problems may arise when they reenter Earth's gravitational field. The bone and muscle atrophy that occurs in the microgravity environment is a severe hurdle to overcome in achieving an extended human presence in space. While the cardiovascular system appears to function normally during short- term exposure to microgravity, clinically significant dysfunction is often apparent during readaptation to 1-G and is likely amplified with prolonged spaceflight. In addition, prolonged exposure to the altered loading conditions of microgravity is considered to be a potential cause of irreversible functional and structural changes. Results from experiments flown on SLS-I and reflown on SLS-II will help us to begin to understand these effects. Hormones that affect the cardiovascular system are of great importance and should be considered in the context of the cardiovascular changes that occur in space. The changes in gravity-sensing nerve tissue that inevitably occur during a space mission lead to disturbances of sensorimotor function, including impaired spatial orientation as well as instability of gaze and motion systems. Provided a constant environment is maintained, the central nervous system adapts to these environmental changes within a few days. However, there are caveats to this assessment of relative risk. One is that gravito-inertial changes occur at the most critical parts of a mission—during takeoff or landing. This would be an issue, for example, for crews landing on Mars, where a gravitational field about one third that of Earth will be encountered. In addition to describing the physiological effects of microgravity on humans in space, a host of reports have discussed the recognition of psychosocial problems during long-duration missions such as those planned for Space Station Freedom, a manned lunar base, a voyage to Mars, or a martian outpost.4 Current research using analogue environments and other means do not provide convincing evidence that missions longer than one year will be tolerated in the closed-limited environments that are contemplated for prolonged space missions. Psychosocial issues may be critical limiting factors in the exploration of space. This is another area that calls for much research. Another category that requires investigation before humans embark on any long-duration space voyage is the effects of the radiation environment beyond the magnetosphere. The radiation environment of space is considerably less benign than that on Earth. Planning for extended human sojourns in space mandates that we have quantitative knowledge about the dose rates, and the types of radiation that will be encountered, and the shielding that will be required. Here again, research on Earth and in space will be required. file:///C|/SSB_old_web/an92ch5.htm (5 of 17) [6/18/2004 10:31:39 AM]

OCR for page 36
Space Studies Board Annual Report-1992 (Congressional Testimony) The areas I have just discussed are those that the Board and its Committee on Space Biology and Medicine have determined to be most urgent and critical to supporting a Space Exploration Initiative. To summarize what I have said in this part of the testimony—there are several critically important areas in space biomedical and behavioral research that must be adequately supported so that the United States can safely and successfully realize a goal of long-term human space exploration. I want to emphasize that a long period of time and effort will be required for the satisfactory pursuit and resolution of all these problems. As the Board indicated in both its March 1991 and March 1992 statements concerning Space Station Freedom, we concur with the recommendation of the Augustine Committee that the primary objective of a space station should be life sciences research.5 That is, "A space- based laboratory is required to study the physiological consequences of long- term spaceflight."6 COOPERATIVE RESEARCH One way to maximize the return on investment in research is through various modes of cooperative research, with foreign partners, private concerns, and between federal agencies. To the extent that there are shared or compatible goals, the Board and its Committee on Space Biology and Medicine strongly endorse this approach. For example, the National Institutes of Health is this nation's primary supporter of the biomedical research enterprise. Over the past several years, there have been increasing efforts between NIH and NASA to identify and collaborate in support of areas of mutual benefit to the two agencies. Dr. Bernadine Healy, director of the NIH, testified before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology last October:7 NASA's life sciences program and the biomedical research activities at the NIH are complementary in that both are concerned with human health. NIH's research focuses on the full range of sciences relevant to improving the health of Americans on Earth. NASA's life sciences efforts are centered primarily on the health of astronauts today and tomorrow. . . . While examining the direct effects of space flight on the human body is the primary concern of NASA's medical researchers, NIH conducts and supports a wide range of studies relating to these many important phenomena. In particular, both cardiovascular research and studies on bone demineralization or osteoporosis are major and important focuses for NIH investigators because of their devastating effects on the health of Americans here on Earth. . . . Bone demineralization is of great interest to NIH researchers. It is pervasive among elderly women. The problems of osteoporosis and bone demineralization affect an estimated 24 million file:///C|/SSB_old_web/an92ch5.htm (6 of 17) [6/18/2004 10:31:39 AM]

OCR for page 36
Space Studies Board Annual Report-1992 (Congressional Testimony) individuals here on Earth and indeed it is a debilitating condition which is pervasive among long-term space travelers as we have determined. Another example for potential collaboration between federal agencies are facilities supported by the Department of Energy such as the BEVALAC, which has the capability of providing for study of very high-Z particles and their biological effects. With respect to our foreign partners, including the former Soviet Union, Europe, Japan, Canada, and others, we believe it would be mutually beneficial and of utmost importance to seek ways to enhance cooperative efforts and exploit all available spaceflight opportunities. Resources are limited for all of us. CONCLUSION In the early days, most physicians involved in monitoring orbiting Mercury and Gemini astronauts were nervous. Human experience in the microgravity environment, even for short periods, was terra incognita. There was no precedent, no background of information about human physiological and psychological performance in the weightless state. Thus we were obliged to monitor physiological function. We asked the brilliant engineers at NASA to give us two leads of EKG, and the capability to monitor blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate, and body temperature. Psychological performance was observed by listening to communications—rarely by speaking directly with astronauts. As a result, there was a forced-draft effort to create equipment that would enable us to observe—in real time—psychological performance. From this endeavor, we learned about telemetering ECGs. We developed miniaturized diagnostic equipment. New, strong, lightweight materials were created, and many other developments occurred. All these discoveries had significant spin-offs related to Earth-bound medicine. But it is critical to realize that these remarkable devices and materials were created to monitor astronauts—not to improve the well-being of Earth-bound patients. It is essential to appreciate this distinction. The primary purpose of physiological, psychological, and radiation-effect research in space is to learn enough to provide some reasonable assurance that crews can survive and function in this most unforgiving of environments. Prolonged space faring, as would be involved in any human mission to Mars, remains terra incognita. Of course we have learned things from U.S. and [then] Soviet missions. This information has raised many alarms—emphasizing that as responsible medical scientists we must conduct much more Earth-based and space-based research before we can commit crews to prolonged spaceflight, and still be able to sleep at night ourselves. file:///C|/SSB_old_web/an92ch5.htm (7 of 17) [6/18/2004 10:31:39 AM]

OCR for page 36
Space Studies Board Annual Report-1992 (Congressional Testimony) Undoubtedly, there will be benefits derived from space life sciences research that will be beneficial to patients on Earth. But again, this will be information largely peripheral to the sole purpose of space medicine—to learn enough to ensure reasonable lack of risk to space-faring crews. Benefits derived for Earth-bound medicine must not be construed as the primary driver of space medicine. Finally, if indeed the people of this nation decide not to send crews to explore the universe, I personally will no longer remain involved in this adventure. Without prolonged human spaceflight remaining as a high priority on the American agenda, there is no compelling justification for space medicine. 5.2 Testimony on Setting Priorities in Space Research The following testimony was delivered by Space Studies Board member John A. Dutton before the Subcommittee on Science of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology of the U.S. House of Representatives, on April 28, 1992. Dr. Dutton is also chair of the Board's Task Group on Priorities in Space Research. Mr. Chairman, members of the Subcommittee. Thank you for inviting me to testify at these important hearings on behalf of the Task Group on Priorities in Space Research, a committee of the Space Studies Board, National Research Council. As you know, we have just released a report, Setting Priorities for Space Research—Opportunities and Imperatives (National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1992). That report is the culmination of a two-year study which focused on whether the space research community should have a role in setting priorities for those scientific objectives and initiatives which comprise the space science and applications component of the nation's civil space program. Our conclusion was a resounding "Yes." Not only is it desirable—it is imperative. That it took nearly two years to convince ourselves, the Board, and other colleagues from the space community of the validity of this conclusion indicates the sensitivity and difficulty of this issue. In our deliberations, we were inspired by a quotation from Metternich brought to us by a task group member, Buddy McKay—one of your former colleagues, now Lt. Governor of Florida. [Policy] is like a play in many acts, which unfolds inevitably once the curtain is raised. To declare that the performance will not take place is an absurdity. The play will go on, either by means of the actors . . . or by means of the spectators who mount the stage. In my remarks today, I will set the context for our report, give a brief file:///C|/SSB_old_web/an92ch5.htm (8 of 17) [6/18/2004 10:31:39 AM]

OCR for page 36
Space Studies Board Annual Report-1992 (Congressional Testimony) overview of its conclusions, and outline how we plan to approach the second phase of this study—by far the more difficult enterprise. THE KEY QUESTIONS IN SETTING AN AGENDA Each of you is well aware that, in sum, the requirements and opportunities competing for federal support far exceed available funding. We know that too. We also know that scientific research is an investment in this nation's future, not an entitlement program. In our report, we document a wide array of remarkable achievements of the U.S. space research program over the past thirty years. We go on to describe some of the abundant opportunities that exist now and for the future. NASA charts depicting funding levels required just to complete the ongoing program, let alone begin new projects, are a graphic reminder of the very real need to make difficult choices. The community of scientists engaged in research in space must reach a consensus on priorities and contribute to the formulation of an agenda for space research and for the space program. Such an agenda and the priorities it represents must respond to national needs and to the larger priorities imposed by national goals. The two key questions in space research, as in most continuing endeavors, are: What should we do? How should we do it? We set our agenda with the answers to these questions—the priorities that we choose reflect our goals and our values. Careful consideration and formulation of assumptions and priorities for the scientific research program and the overall space program that supports it will enable us to better serve national goals, compel effective action, achieve the maximum return on our national investment, and foster public pride and confidence. THE HIERARCHY OF PRIORITIES Let me state my personal view of how the issues addressed by our report fit within the context of the national decision-making process that creates the agenda for scientific activities. These ideas will be discussed as we proceed with the second phase of our study. Priorities for space research or for a national science program appear within a hierarchy that ranges from national goals to specific research projects. National Goals—At the top of the hierarchy are national goals and objectives, such as developing deeper understanding of the world around us, strengthening education of young citizens, enhancing economic vitality, and preserving the environment. Priorities for such goals obviously evolve, but the time scale on which they are pursued will usually be decades or longer and may file:///C|/SSB_old_web/an92ch5.htm (9 of 17) [6/18/2004 10:31:39 AM]

OCR for page 36
Space Studies Board Annual Report-1992 (Congressional Testimony) extend to centuries. Strategic Endeavors—Next are the strategic endeavors or initiatives that encompass or facilitate a collection of activities intended to contribute to the achievement of national goals. Examples might include the fight against disease, the study of global change induced by human activities, the development of enhanced computer and information technology, the scientific exploration of the solar system, or the conservation of energy. Strategic endeavors are pursued over time scales of years or decades. Specific Initiatives and Activities—At the third level are the initiatives and continuing activities through which we actually achieve the aims of strategic endeavors. These include specific research programs, space research missions, technology development programs, or development of new research facilities. The conceptualization, development, and implementation of these initiatives may take years, or, perhaps, more than a decade. In order to consider priorities effectively, we must divide these specific initiatives into two categories: conceptual or potential efforts and programmatic activities. We formulate the agenda for future programmatic activities by selecting those potential efforts to pursue—we thus decide what we shall do. In setting a programmatic agenda, we determine how we shall do it. In space research, programmatic activities include ongoing research and the design, construction, and flight of spacecraft and the use of data from such flights. Examples of programmatic activities include implementing mature mission proposals such as those for the Advanced X-ray Astronomy Facility (AXAF) or the Earth Observing System (EOS). Conceptual efforts concentrate on developing new ideas and new approaches for attacking scientific questions; they examine the possibilities for utilizing technological advances to obtain scientific information from space. In brief, they explore mission concepts, refining them until they evolve into proposals for programmatic activities. Developmental or conceptual efforts might be typified by studies of an astronomical facility on the moon, a suite of robotic missions to install scientific instruments on Mars, a mission to Pluto, or a constellation of geosynchronous satellites for continuing surveillance of the Earth and its atmosphere. Within space research, priorities for programmatic activities have been developed in recent years by the Space Science and Applications Committee using a methodology created by its predecessor, the Space and Earth Science Advisory Committee.8 So far, there has been no formal effort to set priorities among developmental efforts across all of space research. The disciplinary committees of the Space Studies Board have regularly set forth long-range research strategies with scientific goals and objectives for each of the subdisciplines of space research. These have not, however, been refined into an overall development plan with clear priorities. It is the difficult task of recommending priorities for such a long-range development program that we address in our report, Setting Priorities for Space Research. We need to develop file:///C|/SSB_old_web/an92ch5.htm (10 of 17) [6/18/2004 10:31:39 AM]

OCR for page 36
Space Studies Board Annual Report-1992 (Congressional Testimony) a procedure for creating our agenda a decade or so in advance so that we know with confidence precisely what we intend to do, so that we can concentrate on the highest-priority endeavors. I would argue that the extent to which the scientific community and public officials can shape an effective national program in space research depends in part on how clearly we understand and can enunciate the higher-level goals or objectives which we hope to serve. If we are vague about our national goals and strategic priorities, then it is difficult to focus development and programmatic activities to achieve them. If our national goals and strategic priorities shift about from one emphasis to another, then we shall waste money and effort in program development and execution as we start projects and then later cancel them. In our report we discuss the importance of fundamental assumptions in shaping priorities—these assumptions elucidate the basic motivations for what we are trying to accomplish and they must derive from, and serve the higher purposes of, space research or science. The more clearly those purposes are formulated, the more effective our system of priorities for scientific endeavors will be. The remainder of my remarks are based on discussions and conclusions of the Priorities Task Group. INFORMATION, KNOWLEDGE, AND UNDERSTANDING We examined the role of fundamental assumptions in shaping the civil space program. For some time, the objectives of the space research community and those of the broader space program have been in conflict. Apollo demonstrated national technological superiority at a critical time. A fundamental assumption of the civil space program developed in that era asserts that it is human destiny to explore the Solar System and perhaps beyond. New realities of international competition, domestic politics, and economics suggest the need to examine our assumptions to ensure that space research and the space program contribute effectively to national vitality. We believe that the imperative driving scientific research is the acquisition of knowledge and understanding. Thus the collection of data, the creation of information through its analysis, and the subsequent development of insight and understanding should be the key governing objectives for scientific research in space and for the broader space program. We believe that the nation would benefit if space research and much of the space program emphasized the acquisition of information and knowledge and the development of insight and understanding. Adopting the acquisition of information that cannot be obtained on Earth as the primary purpose of space activities is compatible with national needs to develop advanced technologies and capabilities. Most significantly, such a purpose provides clear objectives for future development of the human spaceflight program. file:///C|/SSB_old_web/an92ch5.htm (11 of 17) [6/18/2004 10:31:39 AM]

OCR for page 36
Space Studies Board Annual Report-1992 (Congressional Testimony) ECONOMIC REALITIES AND THE MANAGEMENT OF AVAILABLE RESOURCES Today, as federal dollars become increasingly scarce, demands for clear benefits from public investments and for effective use of available resources confront the space science and applications community. Two trends in public policy offer both challenge and opportunity to space science. First, there appears to be an increased willingness to support activities primarily producing broad social benefits, as evidenced by policy and action motivated by concerns for clean water and air, for protecting the environment, and for maintaining wilderness, wildlife, and habitats. Second, there is an increasing demand for publicly supported activities to provide explicit evidence that the benefits to be achieved merit the costs. Responding to these demands requires careful thought to demonstrate how space research or other scientific effort that fundamentally serves to augment knowledge and understanding contributes to society; it requires careful analysis to answer questions such as: In what way and by how much does space research further national objectives? Economic benefits have been cited as a rationale for space research since the inception of the U.S. civil space program, yet the precise meaning of "economic benefit" has not always been clear. The narrowest definition would include strictly commercial activity that is profitable in the business sense. The case most often cited is that of commercial communications satellites, in which economic benefits can be defined as the value consumers place on the service and are measured by industry revenues. We do not offer a formal cost-benefit analysis for scientific research in space. That was both beyond our charge and is difficult to do. However, from the perspective of setting priorities for space research initiatives, many requirements of cost-benefit analysis are instructive. Both those who propose research initiatives and those who review them should, as far as possible, identify all costs and benefits, determine the necessary conditions for success, estimate the probabilities and the consequences of failure, and specify the expected outcomes. While we are aware that many people object to any attempt to quantify science and knowledge, we believe this sort of analysis must be factored into any effective priority-setting procedure. In parallel with demonstrating the benefits of space research, we must be sure that we use the available resources wisely and efficiently. Many observers have emphasized that space research efforts seem to cost too much, take too long, and all too often fail to meet their original objectives. In recent years, we have forced scientific missions into launch modes that dramatically increased their costs and reduced their effectiveness. We diffuse our support for science by attributing scientific motivations to efforts that, while they serve legitimate public purposes, are essentially nonscientific. In our report, we discuss some of the lessons we have learned in three decades of space research and some of their file:///C|/SSB_old_web/an92ch5.htm (12 of 17) [6/18/2004 10:31:39 AM]

OCR for page 36
Space Studies Board Annual Report-1992 (Congressional Testimony) implications for the future. RATIONALE FOR SETTING PRIORITIES We argue that there are two principal justifications for working toward a consensus and recommending priorities: First, consensus is politically compelling. If scientists can demonstrate that their agenda responds to national needs and to scientific imperatives, then they can argue effectively for an adequate share of resources and for an orderly progression through the suite of initiatives endorsed by the community. Second—as Metternich said—if the players will not act, then the spectators will take the stage. If scientists engaged in space research cannot, or will not, set priorities among opportunities, then others whose own goals may be quite different will take the stage and make the decisions. Passivity or disarray on the part of the scientists presents the political process with the opportunity, indeed the necessity, to make choices, some of which may not be in the best interests of science. In order to prepare an effective developmental agenda, we will need a sophisticated system of priorities. A simple ranked list will not be sufficient. We envision a hierarchical scheme, with certain categories of activities given a higher priority than others. The categories in such a scheme might include support for basic research and scientific infrastructure, followed by mandatory efforts, large initiatives, and incremental efforts that are part of the forward march of science. The relative priorities in such a scheme can be presented as a matrix, with the columns representing categories and containing activities listed by relative priority within the category. There are not now, nor are there ever likely to be, sufficient resources to do everything we would like to do. It is time for the proponents and the recipients of federal research support to step up to the challenge of participating in the decision-making debate. As scientists and engineers, we have the unique capability of examining our own scientific and technological goals and objectives from a vantage point as experts in the field. We must, as encouraged by Congressman Brown in a recent address at the National Academy of Sciences, provide policy makers with our best assessment of priority ordering based on "unadulterated peer-reviewed judgment of scientific merit." COUNTER-ARGUMENTS TO THE COUNTER-ARGUMENTS In the course of our study and since the publication of our report, we have encountered a remarkably uniform set of arguments against scientists participating in setting priorities. Not surprisingly, some find the notion of setting priorities threatening. Anticipating counter-arguments, we offered a response to those arguments in our report. Below, I list some of the objections, and then our file:///C|/SSB_old_web/an92ch5.htm (13 of 17) [6/18/2004 10:31:39 AM]

OCR for page 36
Space Studies Board Annual Report-1992 (Congressional Testimony) counter-arguments to them. There will be losers. Yes, there will be, just as there are losers now. Consensus in the scientific community along with effective advocacy will, in all likelihood, produce more funds and stable funding patterns and hence strengthen science and increase opportunities for the recommended initiatives. Without a process that identifies and promotes good science and strong initiatives, resources are scattered and the strong subsidize the weak. Recommending priorities is too difficult, too contentious. Yes, it is difficult. But we believe it can be accomplished through a formal process in which competing initiatives are judged uniformly according to explicit criteria, preferably on the basis of written material that specifically addresses the stated criteria. Again, if scientists find it too difficult to create an agenda for space research, then, as argued above, others will do it for them. The community will not be able to maintain consensus because those who lose will subvert the process by lobbying policy makers and Congress directly. We argue that rather than seeking to restore initiatives that have been abandoned, those who lose out in the process would be better advised to develop more competitive initiatives. Setting priorities will be counterproductive because the community will tear itself apart. We believe that insisting on a fair, open, and formal process will, in the end, serve both individual scientists and science at large. If the space research community is to be taken seriously by others, then it should accept responsibility for its own future. The low-priority initiatives will not be done. Exactly—that is the purpose of setting priorities. When resources are limited, they should be directed toward the highest-priority endeavors. Scientists cannot make political judgments. We believe that in arguing for initiatives, scientists should be sensitive to national goals and political realities, just as we expect that politicians in considering scientific initiatives should be sensitive to scientific merit. Since scientists expect support from taxpayers, they should be willing to explain to the public why some initiatives better serve national purposes. THE DIFFICULT PART Having begun the second phase of our study, we are well aware that the most difficult aspect of our endeavor lies ahead. Over the next year, we will be developing a procedure for recommending priorities that will contribute to the creation of a vigorous long-range space research agenda. We understand that for file:///C|/SSB_old_web/an92ch5.htm (14 of 17) [6/18/2004 10:31:39 AM]

OCR for page 36
Space Studies Board Annual Report-1992 (Congressional Testimony) such a procedure to be successful, it must be accepted by the space research community at large while at the same time serving as a meaningful source of practical, reasoned advice to decision makers. It is our intention to actively involve the space research community in the development and testing of the methodology and implementation plan we create. That dialogue began earlier this year at a symposium marking the release of our phase-one report. Many issues and questions must be addressed and answered. For example: What are the appropriate criteria for determining priorities in developing a long-range agenda for space research or for other scientific endeavors? Who should be responsible for administering the process that is finally recommended? What will be the time schedule for the evaluation process and subsequent priority recommendations? To whom should evaluators' recommendations be directed: Congress, NASA, the Space Council, or . . . ? How will the process provide for making choices within disciplines as well as across space research disciplines? Is it realistic to suggest that science can be subjected to any sort of cost-benefit analysis? How can we determine what budget limits (minimum and maximum), if any, should be placed on the totality of efforts considered in a developmental agenda? To what extent should we narrow the choices as we approach setting the programmatic agenda? These are just a few of the questions we must answer. There will be more questions and more criticisms. Clearly, we have set ourselves a difficult task. However, we believe it would be a serious mistake not to try. Helping to fashion the appropriate criteria for making these difficult choices is, we believe, a responsibility of the space research community. The community is capable of making the sophisticated judgments necessary to foster a vital and robust space research program. We believe it must do so. 1For examples of previous Space Studies Board positions on biomedical and life file:///C|/SSB_old_web/an92ch5.htm (15 of 17) [6/18/2004 10:31:39 AM]

OCR for page 36
Space Studies Board Annual Report-1992 (Congressional Testimony) sciences research, see: A Strategy for Space Biology and Medical Sciences for the 1980s and 1990s (NAP, 1987); Assessment of Programs in Space Biology and Medicine—1991 (NAP, 1991); "Space Studies Board Position on Proposed Redesign of Space Station Freedom" (March 1991); "Space Studies Board Assessment of the Space Station Freedom Program" (March 1992); and testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on HUD Appropriations, Committee on Appropriations, by L. Dennis Smith, chair, Committee on Space Biology and Medicine, Space Science Board (May 1987). 2See reports, statements, and testimony cited in endnote 1. 3See statement of John A. Dutton, chair, Space Studies Board Task Group on Priorities in Space Research, to the Subcommittee on Science, Space, and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, April 28, 1992. 4LifeBeyond the Earth's Environment—The Biology of Living Organisms in Space (NAS, 1979); A Strategy for Space Biology and Medical Science for the 1980s and 1990s (NAP, 1987); Leadership and America's Future in Space (NASA, A Report to the Administrator by Sally K. Ride, August 1987); Exploring the Living Universe—A Strategy for Life Sciences (NASA, Washington, D.C., June 1988); and Space Science in the Twenty-First Century—Imperatives for the Decade 1995-2015—Overview and Life Sciences volumes (NAP, 1988). 5Report of the Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program, Superintendent of Documents (GPO), December 1990. 6Committee on Space Biology and Medicine Strategy previously cited and Space Studies Board letter to Joseph Alexander, assistant associate administrator, Office of Space Science and Applications, NASA Headquarters, December 12, 1990; Space Station Summer Study Report, SESAC Task Force on Scientific Uses of a Space Station, NASA, March 1986. 7Hearingbefore the Subcommittee on Space of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, October 23, 1991. For a description of this methodology see: The Crisis in Space and Earth Sciences—A Time for a New Commitment (NASA Advisory Council, 1986); also John A. Dutton and Lawson Crowe, "Setting Priorities Among Scientific Initiatives," American Scientist 76:599-603 (1988). file:///C|/SSB_old_web/an92ch5.htm (16 of 17) [6/18/2004 10:31:39 AM]